NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Senior forward Brian Behrad scored two goals, including the game winner with six seconds remaining in overtime, to lead the No. 25 Cal State Northridge Matadors (4-0-0) to a 2-1 win over the Saint Mary's Gaels (2-1-0) on Sunday afternoon at Matador Soccer Field. With the victory, the Matadors are now 4-0 for the first time since 1987 and the first time ever in the program's Division I history.
"I'm just here to do whatever the team needs," said Behrad. "If the team needs me to go all the way back on defense then that's what I will do. Whatever it takes for us to win as a group."
It took nearly 100 minutes of play for a winner to be decided and Cal State Northridge needed every second to keep their winning streak alive. Although the team dominated possession and the tempo of the match, Northridge had to work to crack through the Gael defense. The Matadors fell behind after 34 minutes but were able to find a second-half equalizer that eventually pushed the match into overtime.
Ismail Adam opened the scoring in the match for Saint Mary's, capitalizing on a Northridge turnover in the defensive half of the field. Adam intercepted a pass and dribbled to about 30 yards from goal before unleashing a shot that found the back of the net in the lower left corner.
The Matadors entered the halftime break trailing for just the second time this season, despite owning the advantage in shots (11-6) and corner kicks (4-3). However, CSUN came out of the break determined to find a breakthrough that would lead to the tying goal. Northridge went on a man advantage as well after Saint Mary's defender Rafael Sanchez was sent off for a hard challenge in the 49th minute.
Behrad scored the first of his two goals in the match in the 56th minute after a corner kick by Chris Smith. Smith lined up the corner on the right side of the field and sent in a cross at the near post that Behrad headed off of the goalkeeper and in.
"I set the ball down and saw Brian and we made eye contact," explained Smith. "He made one move to the front post and I knew exactly where he was going. We have really good chemistry, so I knew that if I put the ball toward his area we'd have a really good attempt at goal."
Despite playing a man down, the Gaels clamped down defensively and kept the score even at the end of regulation. The Matadors nearly had the opportunity to score the winning goal early in the first overtime, but a potential penalty kick was waved off and play continued.
With the final seconds of the first overtime ticking off the clock, Northridge sent a wave of players forward. Following a throw in on the left side, Beto Velasquez found Steven Manios with a pass toward the corner. Manios then drove into the box and sent a cross to the back post where Behrad's header again beat the goalkeeper, this time with just six seconds left in the period.
With the victory the Matadors are off to their best start since 1987. Cal State Northridge was at the Division II level at the time and opened the season 6-0 before making a run to the NCAA Division II National Championship match.
"Anything that I can do that Coach Marwan Ass'ad, my mentor, has done, and to be mentioned in the same words as him is an honor," said Davila. "To have teams that have done what his did is an honor for me. We are focusing now on our matches with Central Arkansas and New Mexico next week."
The Matadors will now hit the road for the first time this season and travel to the 2013 TLC Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. Northridge will open the tournament on Friday, Sept. 13, at 4:30 p.m. MDT (3 p.m. PDT) against Central Arkansas. The Matadors will also face the host New Mexico Lobos on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. MDT. (5 p.m. PDT).